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Panthers rally, surge past Marengo in fourth

A late-game rally brought the Georgiana Panthers from the brink of defeat against the visiting Marengo Panthers as a 28-point final quarter put the game away 72-59.

Despite the recent history between the two programs, given how Marengo spoiled Georgiana’s perfect football season in the second round of playoff play.

But if you were to ask Georgiana head basketball coach Kirk Norris, the history didn’t factor into Tuesday’s big win.

“We just wanted to make sure we won, no matter who it was,” Norris said.

“I think it was something on the kids’ minds who played football, but it’s not something we wanted to focus on. It’s a different season and a different sport.”

Despite that, Georgiana found themselves in a similarly tough fight even after jumping out to an 11-2 lead over Marengo in the opening minutes.

And then, disastrously, trouble came in the form of fouls on Georgiana’s best post players, Martavius Payton and Jamarcus Sims.

With the Panthers’ biggest players benched early, the undersized Georgiana defense found it tough to match Marengo’s size.

The early lead was dwarfed to just 2 points at the half, and eliminated altogether in the third quarter.

“And we had a lot of turnovers–I mean a TON of turnovers–travels, throwing the ball away and just uncharacteristic stuff that we haven’t done all year,” Norris said. “It was just real sloppy.

“And in the third quarter, we continued doing the same stuff, and they took the lead.  They were the away team, and I guess they were feeling like they had nothing to lose.”

But a miraculous stretch of perimeter shooting from Christian Williams, Dalvin Dix and others sliced away at the deficit.

The floodgates opened for Georgiana in the fourth to the tune of 28 points–twice the team’s quarterly average that night up until then–and Marengo struggled to match the pace.

“In the fourth quarter, we turned it on and played our brand of ball,” Norris said.

“Once we got it to 10 points, we kept it there and held it for the rest of the way. But it was a dogfight; they sure enough came to play, and we didn’t bring our A-game but for maybe a quarter and a half, and I think the guys know that, too.”

The Panthers faced another familiar foe, the Lions of Houston County, stood in the way of the Georgiana’s third consecutive return to Birmingham Friday, though results weren’t available at press time.

With the youngest cumulative experience in recent years, the Panthers will look to veterans such as Jamichael Stallworth on the difficult road ahead, though the team will sorely miss Keinderus Mobley, who will miss the remainder of the season due to a knee injury suffered during the Panthers’ battle with Hillcrest Evergreen.

Norris has faith in his young players, however.

“Several of them have the experience of being there, but just not being on the court,” Norris said.

“So it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out with the experience factor going forward.”